tv Deadline White House MSNBC May 18, 2019 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
with my friend nicolle wallace. ♪ ♪ hi, everyone. it is 4:00 in new york. this is what obstruction of justice looks like, two pieces of evidence that a federal judge has ordered to be made public. it could impact public opinion about the obstruction of justice investigation into donald trump. that investigation looked into trump's efforts to thwart the russia probe and ended with special counsel robert mueller saying he could not exonerate the president. now a federal judge has ordered the public release of some of the evidence that robert mueller contemplated when he wrote that he could not say the president hadn't committed crimes. that evidence includes a transcript of a phone call that stood in the center of the fbi's investigation into michael flynn, and a transcript of a
call between the president's lawyer, john dowd, and flynn's lawyer. "the washington post" writes it up like this. quote, a federal judge on thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser michael flynn tried hard to hide with a lie, his conversation with a russian ambassador in late 2016. u.s. district judge emmet g. sullivan in washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a november 2017 voicemail involving flynn. in that sensitive call, president trump's attorney left a message for flynn's attorney reminding him of the president's fondness for flynn at a time when flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators. together, those two pieces of evidence, which may even lead to the release of the actual audio tapes of those calls, could impact the public's understanding of the misconduct detailed in the dense 488-page
mueller report which describes how the president's most senior national security adviser discussed deals with russians that he would later lie about. also a call in which the president's lawyer is clearly probing whether flynn had implicated the president and asked for a heads up if flynn planned to do so. it is the kind of evidence that's behind the brazen, coordinated white house and doj strategy of stonewalling congress. it is also the kind of evidence that may recast attorney general william barr's decision to exonerate donald trump as being at odds with mueller's ultimate conclusions on obstruction if mueller himself ever testifies. from last night's court filing, quote, the defendant, mike flynn, informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the administration or congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness
of that cooperation. and that is where we start today with some of our favorite reporters and friends. former u.s. attorney joyce vance is here with us onset. associated press white house reporter jonathan lemire. ashley parker, white house reporter for "the washington post" at the table. and nick confortsori for "the new york times". four overtired parents at the table. what could go wrong on a friday? joyce, we will start with you though. this is two different pieces of evidence, two pieces of evidence that are alluded to in the mueller report, but now we might have the kind of evidence that could crack open the public's understanding of donald trump's misconduct around the question of whether or not and how he and his legal team sought to obstruct the mueller probe. please explain both pieces for us. >> so this should help the public understand how dangerous and how devious attorney general
barr's efforts to mischaracterize the mueller report as essentially exonerating the president, although he didn't go quite that far, but how devious that mischaracterization was because now as we learn more about some of the evidence that's detailed inside of the mueller report we see that there was this concerted effort by the president's personal lawyers to try to get michael flynn, someone who held powerful evidence about the president, try to get flynn not to cooperate with investigators. we have to ask ourselves as we see this story unfold, why was it so important to the president that michael flynn not cooperate with prosecutors. what is there still there that we don't know or that's become public in the report that we don't quite have context for. so that's what we will look for as this story about the efforts to keep flynn from cooperating by the president's team move forward. >> and, joyce, it would seem to me that when the actual words,
"the president's lawyer" are heard -- and we have a transcript. i'm going to read it. but it makes the assessments given by people like jim comey that the trump team reminded him of a mob family, if you hear it but don't see it or you hear it characterized but can't decide for yourself if these people sound more like "the sopranos" you have to take a he said/she said, but let's let people decide. this is a partial transcript of the voicemail that the judge ordered released, the whole transcript by may 31st. here is the part in the mueller report. this is john dowd. if i could do a john dowd voice i would, but i'll spare everybody on a friday. so he calls flynn's lawyer and he says, it wouldn't surprise me if you've gone on to make a deal with the government. if there's information that implicates the president, then we've got a national security issue. so, you know, we need some kind of heads up. up, just for the sake of
protecting all of our interests if we can. remember what we've always said about the president and his feelings toward flynn and that still remains. joyce, can we just take that apart? it wouldn't surprise me if you've gone on to make a deal with the government. he is saying, we understand you may be a cooperating witness. if there's information that implicates the president, then we've got a national security issue. what does that mean? >> you know, when i heard this i thought maybe it was an actually an outtake from "god father i" because that's what it sounds like. it is important to remember this is not government lawyers. this is the president's personal lawyer. >> correct. >> trying to keep a witness from cooperating with the government. so what business does he have invoking national security? that's not within his wheelhouse. so we know that that's actually not what this call is about. this is about the president's security, about trump family security, and he's trying to
appeal to mike flynn maybe in a way that he thinks will work. but they clearly know at this point that the game is just about over. >> so let me bring this into focus as well. remember what we've always said about the president and his feelings toward flynn and that still remains. what does that mean? what do feelings have to do with anything, joyce? >> i would be proud to present that evidence to a jury as part of an obstruction case. first, there's this notion, remember what the president has always said, does that mean that there were direct conversations between the president and mike flynn on multiple occasion goes? did the president tell flynn he would protect him, for instance, if he didn't testify? it is now incumbent upon us to find out what the answer to that question is. and so this evocation of the president has good feelings about you, you know, i think that we sometimes get hung up as lawyers on our need to prove facts beyond a reasonable doubt, but there is no way to read this other than the president saying,
i feel good about you, i'll take care of you, maybe even i'll pardon you if you get into trouble as long as you stay on my side of the line. >> and, joyce, we know from reporting in "the new york times" that a trump lawyer raised the prospect of pardons for flynn and manafort. we know that that was something that robert mueller probed. it would appear that revelations like this and a judge ordering that this be made public also explains the doj/white house strategy, but it doesn't explain what was behind mueller's ultimate decision to leave this to barr except, of course, that maybe that wasn't mueller's decision. maybe leaving the obstruction probe unresolved was the end of the mueller probe, no? >> you know, it is such a difficult question. we don't know what was animating bob mueller's decision at that point in time. it seems like it would have been so easy for him to go a little bit further, and so at some point in time we will have to hear mueller and perhaps others from his team testify. it seems like it would be a good
idea for congress actually to put on a panel of people so we could hear views from the team as to how these decisions were made. but it is really difficulty think to explain to people who have not been prosecutors inside of doj, to explain how carefully we make these decisions, how hesitant we are to go too far, how strongly we try to protect legal norms. and in the era of trump where the white house is blowing away all of the legal norms that it can push through as quickly as it can, that seems antiquated and outdated, but it is part of the respect for the rule of law and this care we take with preserving the system that seems so quaint these days. >> the other piece of evidence is, of course, a transcript that will be made public at the end of may of the call behind flynn's original lie. it was a call between mike flynn and russian ambassador sergey kislyak in which sanctions were one of the things discussed and i believe a u.n. vote having to do with israel was another.
president obama was still in office, and it was a call -- not really extraordinary in too many regards. there's often context, some questions i guess about whether or not it violated the logan act, but it was something that flynn lied about. so do you think we will learn why he lied? >> i hope so. i mean i think it goes back to this issue of, you know, if collusion is a dead letter from a criminal conspiracy perspective, it is not from a political perspective or impeachment perspective. the more we understand, the more questions there really are. why are so many contacts with russians? why the drive to keep them secret? to lie about them, to hide from them? this from a president who has been screaming no collusion over and over again for two years, and yet they had a scorched-earth strategy to lie and deceive and cover up these contacts all along. the question is why. >> you just said the most interesting thing i have heard all week. >> really? >> so the collusion question as a criminal conspiracy, yes, it
is asked and answered in robert mueller's perspective, but do you think the collusion question is still an open political and geopolitical foreign policy question? >> i think it is because, look, people have a right to evaluate all of these contacts and all of these decisions. it couldn't be a criminal conspiracy perhaps. >> right. >> but it is still very strange and hinky and people are right to inspect the contacts and decision points and working together with the russians on different issues to evaluate if it was inappropriate and improper. you know, the important thing is the line can't be that it is illegal and if it is not illegal it is great. some things are terrible and still legal. >> right. >> we have totally lost sight of this idea, and i think the trump white house has really pushed it. if it is not illegal, it is totally awesome, we should all do it, and we would have to be stupid not to do it. >> so your baby isn't old enough for you to be a lego batman fan, but the theme song is "everything is awesome." that's the theme song of the white house counsel's office. not only is stonewalling in our
purview, everything here is awesome. everything is not awesome. robert mueller found i think more than 140 contacts between trump and his associates and russians. i have the sense that the lawyers are over responding in a way that looks so suspicious, they are emboldening and incentivizing an impeachment process. >> what is so striking to the everything is awesome point, is the white house and the president himself are unabashed in publicly coming out and saying, frankly, wouldn't you have done this too. the answer in a lot of instances is no. another campaign, another candidate would absolutely not have done this. the president often says this and it is sort of messaging to his supporters, wouldn't you take loopholes if you could get goods made cheaply in china? wouldn't you find loopholes to pay no taxes if you could? that's smart business. >> it is like, no, everyone doesn't make everything in china and everyone does not cheat on their taxes. >> that's absolutely correct.
but, again, what is so striking is that the white house will sort of -- this is not sort of a private line. i mean it is a public thing that the president will say somewhat proudly. you are right. it may enbolden people to go back and investigate, but it may cause some of his hard core supporters to say, you know what, if the russians came to me with op-ed on my opponent i would have been silly not to consider it as well. >> going further, just last week rudy guilliani was going to ukraine to -- >> i remember. rudy is off to ukraine. >> he was on the flight to kiev. and a few hours later he stopped. there were degrees of how inappropriate it was. >> wait. why did he stop? >> he stopped because there was push back. >> because it is not normal. >> of course it is not. and even republicans chimed in as well which may have played a role why he didn't do it. until that point he was justifying as saying, well, why wouldn't we go? that's right. some might say it is improper but it is not illegal. this is something that's very much in this administration's
playbook. if they can get away with it, they're going to try. >> i guess here is my larger point. is it clear they've gotten away with it? to the next point, they may have escaped the narrow criminal conspiracy question robert mueller was asking but it is not clear they escaped impeachment. >> that's true. >> the justice department had an expectation there was a plausible scenario where impeachment would commence and they would have to turn over underlying evidence and bring witnesses. >> that's a good point. the fix asian lately has been on obstruction, and obviously the dowd phone call and the message is an overlooked incident in the mueller report. the collusion question remains as a political animating force, too. >> and foreign policy. >> right. other foreign capitals will look and say, okay, it wasn't criminal conspiracy but it was strange. why was he doing putin's bidding? why were people lying about the contact they had with the russians? therefore how should it impact how we treat the united states and its allies?
i think that's part of it too. even if the criminal danger has passed, there's still a lot of political worry for this white house. >> joyce, it is also obvious that the mueller question does not feel -- from the perspective of the white house, like something that has been put to rest. the president was clearly triggered this morning, spewing away lunacy from his twitter feed and this specter of robert mueller simply testifying to the facts of the mueller report, simply reading parts -- i mean this is in focus because a federal judge ordered the release of documents that are cited in the mueller report, but we have now been talking about the documents for almost 24 hours. if every obstruction flash point were brought into focus like this for 24 hours, the political dynamic could change dramatically for this white house. >> well, it really could. and if we ever get to the point where there are witnesses testifying up on the house side and where documents are turned over so that congress can begin to take a look at them, they could be very dangerous for the
president, or at least how quickly he goes to the mattresses on twitter suggests that. that i think explains this white house's strategy of fighting every subpoena, fighting every effort for disclosure. we may not know exactly what the problems the president has are, but it seems very clear whether they're financial problems, whether they're contact with russia problems, that his administration and maybe, frankly, his practices over decades are so rive wife with corruption they can't withstand public scrutiny. >> the president tweeted this morning someone should have warned him about mike flynn. i think the list of people who did is longer than the list of people who didn't, apparently jared kushner didn't. this was the president's tweet. it seems general flynn was under investigation long before it was common knowledge. it would have been impossible for me to know this, but if that was the case -- i can't read the rest of it. chris christie told him and basically lost his job as head of transition, he writes about
it in the book. president obama told him, joe biden was in the office when it happened. i think plenty of people warned him about mike flynn. i think sally yates walked over and told don mcgahn. we can watch it again. >> we felt it was critical that we get the information to the white house because -- in part because the vice president was unknowingly making false statements to the public and because we believed that general flynn was compromised with respect to the russians. >> so i mean general flynn was like the bad boyfriend, literally everybody warned him about and he dated him anyway. >> which is what happens when you leave with a bad boyfriend. >> always, literally. >> there's an attraction to the bad boyfriend. look, it is one of the many, many mysteries of trump, is why was he so drawn to have this guy in his cabinet and give him so much power? i have heard versions and theories about it that, look, they shared views on islam and muslims and it was an animating idea for trump. >> hails from the lunatic right.
>> also he was rejected by obama which was a plus in trump's mind. and just the fact that everybody was telling him not to do it, and we know from this president he kind of likes zigging when everyone else is zagging. i don't know what the right answer is. i have heard all of those theories advanced. >> there's also a new bit of information that flynn was encouraged by people close to the president and congress. any theories on who in congress was telling flynn not to cooperate? >> there are theories probably that it would be irresponsible to share with the reporting but to me it was one of the most intriguing lines in the report. >> me too. >> because there's other stuff but, you know, it was already in the mueller report. we already knew about the phone call, but this was the first time, if i am remembering correctly. >> yes. >> we had any inclination anyone on capitol hill was involved in that. that to me is absolutely fascinating. >> it also connects a dot for me. again, we don't know who it was and it isn't revealed who it is, but it connects a dot. i mean there is a multi prong effort from the president -- and
there was for the first two years that devin nunes controlled the house intel committee. he declassified the fisa over the objections of the fbi. it brings into question why on earth -- we will talk about it more, but why is the attorney general suggesting there haven't been investigations into the russia probe. devin nunes spent two years questioning and trying to undermine the fbi and original russia investigation. >> yours is one of the best examples, but even the chairman had a back handle to the white house to help on the probes, to slow them down at the most generous reading of that. i think that that is -- you know, these are questions that will hopefully be answered in weeks to come. it is a story with a lot of tentacles, still sprawling. you're right, the president's affection for flynn is well-known. the theories you have all floated are right i think, but also that flynn was there day after day on the campaign trail,
was his attack dog. let's remember, his constant traveling companion. the president really sort of grew fond of him there. remember, flynn was the first one who led the lock her up chant that came at the republican convention in cleveland that summer. >> that's a perfect place to hit pause because all of this information came out in the context of flynn's sentencing where he is hoping not to be slo locked up himself. after the break, donald trump turns up the volume on his false claim he was spied on. something his hand-picked fbi director says he has seen no evidence of. also ahead, buttigieg and mike pence's support of homophobic policies as he preps for a town hall. it is all real. all of those stories coming up. l all of those stories coming up it's tough to quit smoking
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♪ attorney general william barr was asked this morning on fox about his multiple investigations into the origins of the russia investigation. his answer so perplexing, so potentially dangerous to the institutions of
law and justice that he oversees we don't want to air it without a disclaimer. what you are about to hear from the sitting attorney general about an investigation into whether a foreign adversary interfering in our democracy is not normal. >> i've been trying to get answers to questions and i found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate, and i have also found that some of the explanations i've gotten don't hang together. so in a sense i have more questions today than i did when i first started. we should be worried about whether government officials
abused their power and put their thumb on the scale, and so i'm not saying that happened but i'm saying that we have to look at that. >> pretty serious concerns to raise publicly about career law enforcement officials that work for you without offering any evidence, especially since trump's own fbi director doesn't seem to share those concerns. >> do you have any evidence that any illegal surveillance into the campaigns or individuals associated with the campaigns by the fbi occurred? >> i don't think i personally have any evidence of that sort. >> so given the choice between wray's answer which relies on evidence and barr's which barr describes as being based not on any evidence, just a feeling, a hunch, guess which one trump latched on to this morning. he tweeted this. quote, my campaign for president was conclusively spied on. nothing like this has ever happened in american politics.
a really bad situation. treason means long jail sentences, and this was treason. joyce and the table are back. joyce? >> absolutely incredible. barr has done nothing but damage his credibility with law enforcement, with career prosecutors from the moment he took this job, and these comments this morning are so dangerous. for him to criticize people who go to work every day and do their job for the american people, as this attorney general well knows, before you can get fisa coverage on a u.s. person you have to have probable cause to believe that they're acting as an agent as a foreign government and you have to take that information to a federal judge on the fisa court and get them to sign off on it. it is not like spying, which is illegal conduct. that's exactly why it is illegal to spy on american citizens, because we have protections for citizens, and the attorney general manages to conveniently overlook the facts that every
professional knows about how this process works so he can scatter red meat at the president. >> joyce, it would seem that barr is dangerous but not dumb. he said in testimony on capitol hill before the senate house appropriations committee and on "fox news" that he has no evidence but he thinks that something bad happened. it seems like the most dangerous demagoguery. at least donald trump makes it all up. no one thinks he has any evidence. >> it is really dangerous. the attorney general knows that the inspector general, and inspector generals are neutral, apolitical parties, not appointed for any particular administration. they are run off and exceeds and it cuts across multiple administrations. these are the neutrals in the world of the executive branch. the inspector general is looking at all of these questions. there's no need for barr to pick it up independently and toss around these sort of baseless accusations. but, as you say, he is always very careful to not cross over
the line into perjury territory, which i think in many ways tells us just how dangerous the conduct he's engaging this is for the persamerican people. >> i think barr is the most dangerous person that works for donald trump. he has donald trump's world view, sean hannity's world view but oversees the justice department. >> we have a story just moving now about the relationship between trump and barr, and a very telling moment that was flagged to me. when the president declared -- issued his veto when congress tried to stop his national emergency which was back in march, he appeared with a number of law enforcement officials and families of those who have lost loved ones to people who were in the country illegally, and barr stepped forward and say you have the legal authority to do this. then he added, ad libraried a line, and it is for the national good you are doing it, it is imperative. it caught the president's attention and those around him, saying he would be more than the attorney general but step up and be donald trump's attorney general. that's what the president has told people around him. since then we have seen time and again that he has been willing
to go above and beyond to have the president's back, including the news conference about the mueller report where he repeated no collusion a dozen times which is right from the president's script. you know, the president was appreciative of the work he is doing now highlighting the immigration dangers and so on. yes, barr is someone who at least at this point seems willing to trade the credibility he had earned, you know, in his previous decades in government in order to curry favor with donald trump. >> ashley, you read the mueller report, the second volume, and don mcgahn just emerges as -- if nothing else, deeply conflicted, loyal to the institution of the office of white house counsel, to the office and the prerogatives of the office of the presidency, but really like a human -- like a human railroad track over which the president ran his lock motive all day every day in his efforts to obstruct justice, and don mcgahn saying no a handful of times is probably the only reason mueller didn't come down just on the
other side of the obstruction question. what has replaced don mcgahn? >> well, i mean, again in that report the thing that is so striking is that there are people who are constantly saving the president from himself. frankly, in an effort to save themselves they kind of inadvertently help -- >> right, we should explain that. if you think the president's committing obstruction of justice and you stay and help him, you too are legally exposed for committing -- you are part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice. it is not all benevolent. >> right. it is 100% self-interested but it had the effect of saving the president. there's this irony some of the people the president is most furious at he should be thanking them. you use the word guardrails, but a lot of the people who were there have been replaced by people whose world view like barr is very much in line with the president's, even from his new acting chief of staff, to let trump be trump. it is a very trumpy world view,
sort of pushing that line in terms of public relations, allowing the president to do what he wants. and if there was ever a moment when there were less people to sort of temper him, that moment is now. in a weird way i would add the president on foreign policy has sort of even said publicly, i am tempering some of the hard liners. so it is a real role reversal when the president on certain issues is the voice of moderation. >> you build a frankenstein and be careful what happens. your reporter reported about a third investigation in the origins of the russia investigation, so there's the investigation that devin nunes ran for the two years he ran the house intel committee, the huber investigation which has been looking at it a couple of years, there's the horowitz investigation and now there's a third, the mcdermott investigation. all of them work for william barr. how does he still not have information about the origins of the russian probe? >> he seems to be operating on an instinct that he sits at the hierarchy of these people that know about the things he cares
about, but i think the most important thing to watch is the tweet from the president that we showed earlier. i was conclusively spied upon. the president has made up his mind. he is basically interfering in these investigations in front of us, in plain daylight. he is saying, this happened, this is what i expect these things to find. this is where i want it to go. i think that's a very dangerous -- >> calling it treason and calling for long jail sentences. >> he has prejudged the entire thing. if you are barr and your job is to keep an open mind and look at this and the president has said, i know what happened and this is what i want to have happen, that's going to really, you know, call into question what the end point is for barr and what he does with any findings he ends up with. >> joyce, in my infinite curiosity about rod rosenstein, how did he become the guy whose signature is on those fisa applications, who pushed back against the president's allies in congress for his entire two-year tenure to a guy who on the way out slimes and smears
jim comey, quotes donald trump about the rule of law and walks out, you know, all in with donald j. trump? >> you know, what is it that jim comey said in his op-ed for the times about eating people's souls a bite at a time? i think what rod rosenstein will stay when he writes the history of this era is that he made those legal decisions straight up the middle, based them on the law and the facts. that's why he signed off on the fisas. that's why he selected bob mueller to be the special counsel for this investigation, but at some point something happened and a man who spent a lot of time thinking, talking, writing about the rule of law decided that donald trump personified the rule of law. that's really tough to understand. >> joyce vance, thank you for spending some time with us. if anyone can make sense of it, you can. after the break, mayor pete versus vice president pence, round two. that's next. two. that's next. when you shop for your home at wayfair, you'll find just
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your benefit, we knew you were eavesdropping. that's why my friend said that on purpose. we're not gay. not that there's anything wrong with that. >> absolutely. >> i have many gay friends. >> my father is gay. >> we thought of that clip today when we heard of this from the president. >> we've got the town hall with pete buttigieg. >> buttigieg. >> there you go. this weekend. just one thing on him, putting aside policy disagreements, don't you think it is just great to see the fact that you've got a guy there on the stage with his husband and it is normal? >> i think it is absolutely fine, i do. >> but it is -- isn't it a sign of great progress in the country, that that's just -- >> yes, i think it is great. i think that's something that perhaps some people will have a problem with. i have no problem with it whatsoever. i think it is good. >> trump getting ahead of mayor pete's town hall on fox this
weekend where he will face questions about his war of words with the vice president, and buttigieg got practice for that this morning with conservative radio host hewitt. >> do you really think that mike pence is homophobic? >> well, he advanced homophobic policies. i don't know what's in his heart. he has alts been polite to me in person. so if you are in public office and you advance homophobic policies, on some level it doesn't matter whether you do that out of political calculation or whether you do it out of sincere believe. the problem is it's hurting other people. >> joining our conversation, former chief of staff to vice presidents joe biden and al gore. and with us onset the reverend al sharpton, president of the national action network. we cover pete buttigieg because he does interesting things, and that was interesting, going on hugh hewitt's radio show and
standing firm on vice president pence's position and advancing homophobic policies and even sort of the president weighing in -- i don't know who the interview was with, but talking about the progress that's been made. he is forcing some interesting conversations. >> no, i think he does. i think he forces very interesting conversations and challenging ones. when i took him to harlem to sylvia's, it was to say in the middle of the african-american community, which does have a lot of people that are homophobic, we wanted to say that he is a major candidate who is openly gay and that he should be given a hearing and respect like anyone else. people came out and rallied around that. i think that he's raising a very important issue in terms of opening that door to where americans have to deal with openly gay candidates for the highest office in the land. should not be in any way judged any different than anyone else, and it is one thing to say it. it is another when you have someone as intelligent, as clear in their policies, and who has
seemingly picked up the steam that he has as a live candidate. i think he has done that. >> he is struggling with african-american voters. do you think it is around a set of policies? do you think it is around name id or do you think it is around what you just described? >> i think it is all of the above. i think a lot of it is name id, they don't know him, they don't have experiences with him. but i would be lying if i didn't say there was some in parts of this country, in the black community that are still homophobic, which is why i wanted to take the position i did, and i think everyone should. you have to remember when president obama came out with same sex marriage there was a lot of push back. in 2003 when i was getting ready to run and said i was for same sex marriage, i had ministers that i grew up preaching who said, you can't come to my church for a while until this cools off. so let's not be in any way dishonest about this. we have in every community to have to deal with it, and deal
with it we must. i think mayor pete is helping us do that. >> i can't believe we have not had this conversation yet, but you cannot win the democratic nomination without support from african-american women for sure. >> right. >> without doing better among african-american men than your opponents. is that insurmountable, that sort of built-in -- >> no, because i think the more we come out with it, the more you make it clear that you can't have civil rights for anybody unless you have for everybody, and if you have vice for anybody you justify the vice against you. the thing i have said even in churches is, guess what, to when you raise the question of black women voters, is every gay person has a mother. you are talking about your child, your niece, your nephew. so let's get over playing games with this. this is life, whether you agree with it or not. there are things in your life that are natural to you that people don't agree with. >> ron klain, i want your thoughts on all of this. jump in. >> so you know i'm a hoosier, grew up in indiana, my family is
still there. i can tell you for the four years that mike pence was the governor of indiana it was a state known for two things. the most harsh anti-abortion laws in the country and the most harsh anti-lgbt laws in the country. laws so extreme that the conservative "indianapolis star" ran a front page editorial attacking governor pence and telling him he needed to change his position and get the laws repealed. i think it is important when mayor pete is talking about this, he is not talking about something abstract or something, you know, one off. he is talking about a system atic effort that mike pence had as governor of indiana to pass these incredibly harsh, restrictive laws . so there's a lot of history here, a lot of sad reality here. it is good to hear mayor pete talking about that and speaking up about that. >> ron, you always slip me into my former brain as an operative, and i wonder if there's talk among opera tirs tives to try tt
trump and pence as extremists that at a policy level they clearly are. we have been having a debate this week about abortion. you are absolutely right about mike pence's record. frankly, it was part of what attracted donald trump to him in that vp race, for better or worse -- i would say for worse. but is there talk? is there a strategic value to take some of these, i think really scary for all women moves in state legislatures around reproductive freedoms, to talk about what you are talking about, is buttigieg on to something by coming back to vice president pence's extremism? >> i think he is. not just pence but trump himself as you mentioned, nicole. one thing donald trump got away with in 2016 was having and your bain images as a new yorkers while he was saying he was going to lock -- punish women for getting abortions and would appoint a supreme court that would overturn roe v. wade.
he was able to have it both ways in 2016. a lot of suburban people said, donald trump won't really do that, he is playing for the christian conservative vote. i think it is imperative that the democrats running for president in 2020 make sure the voters know and hold donald trump accountable for the big move to the right. what we're seeing in the states, what we are seeing in alabama and ohio and all of the other states right now is the direct result of donald trump saying, we should punish women and donald trump saying we will reverse roe v. wade and putting two justices on the supreme court to do that. the democrats have to do a better job in 2020 than they did in 2016 of putting it at donald trump's feet. >> no one is coming anywhere. coming soon to a courtroom near you, breaking news on the fight for donald trump's tax returns. that's next. returns that's next.
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♪ we have some breaking news this hour that is setting the stage for potentially a historic court fight over the president's tax returns. treasury secretary steve mnuchen told the house ways and means committee he is refusing to comply with a subpoena for six years of trump's tax returns. they were due tonight. committee chairman richard neal previewing a legal battle he says could be in court as early as next week. this is the whole strategy, give them nothing. >> on every front, on all of the investigations of the white house, the president, the kind of reinvestigation of the russia probe, give them nothing. i think what they're basically saying is if you want this stuff, impeach him. that's your only recourse. we're not going to -- you know,
the actual argument in the letter doesn't really matter. they will come up with words and arguments, but basically nothing at all unless you want to impeach us. >> i worked in the whouts that w -- a white house that was investigated all the time and we produced documents to avoid just this. i think it could be a scenario of be careful what you wish for. >> maybe. i mean it is an open question. so far it has been a pretty politically successful strategy for this white house. they are absolutely giving up nothing. there's a calculation that court battles take a long time and they may not be adjudicated until after 2020, and if what you care about is the election, which is what everyone cares about, it sort of kicks that issue down the road. you know, in a real way they are sort of facing -- they're kind of daring, as nick said, the democrats to impeach them. you are even seeing the democrats starting to go down that road. nancy pelosi is being very deft about that but there's a world in which democrats are talking about impeachment not as a political strategy but actually
as a document-gathering strategy because it turns congress into a grand jury and they're able to get documents and witness testify in a way that they can't right now in this situation. >> but donald trump is always that bully on the playground who says, get me if you can. then when you get him he cries and he's like, no, no, no, no. i think it is a taunt. but if they call his bluff, i don't think he's going to enjoy being impeached. >> no, i don't think he's going to enjoy it, but i think that you've got to look at aside from the whole bully kind of persona he projects, he knows what is in the documents. it may be very well -- >> that's true. >> -- he is saying, i lose more fighting -- i lose less fighting than if they get the documents, because he knows what we all don't know and he knows what could hurt him, and that's what i think the democrats ought to be saying, is you really can't afford for us to get the document because maybe there's some very interesting reasons why only one bank would lend you
money and why you had to make certain decisions. i think what they're not doing is pinning the tail on the donkey here, saying -- and start suggesting, why don't you want to give us the you want to give us the documents, mr. trump? you tweet, in the middle of the night you call tv shows, why are you hiding this. that would get under his skin. >> so there's a reason why he's on a first-name basis with russia. coming up, wait till you hear what donald trump has planned for his big, beautiful slats. i would not want to pay that insurance bill. [ ding ] -oh, i have progressive, so i just bundled everything with my home insurance. saved me a ton of money. -love you, gary! -you don't have to buzz in. it's not a question, gary. on march 1, 1810 -- [ ding ] -frédéric chopin. -collapsing in 226 -- [ ding ] -the colossus of rhodes. -[ sighs ] louise dustmann -- [ ding ] -brahms' "lullaby," or "wiegenlied." -when will it end? [ ding ] -not today, ron.
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washington post out with extraordinary reporting on how donald trump is micromanaging his border wall's design. the slats should be painted flat black. a dark hue would absorb heat in the summer, making the metal too hot for climbers to scale. according to one official, it was topped by a rounded barrel-like metal cylinder to prevent climbing, but the president doesn't like the way it looks either, arguing that sharp spikes would appear more intimidating. trump told one group of aides that they would cut the hands of climbers and function as a more effective deterrent. if any kid in any high school wrote that, they would be sent to the school shrink. this is sadistic.
>> this goes to two things. one is it shows his attention to detail on issues that he cares about, and there's not a wide range of issues he cares about. you hear they have charts and pictures and ways to engage the president. and then you take something like this and wants to micromanage every detail down to the shade of the paint and the shape of the spike. it gets to his real views on immigration. this restriction, this tough view, for him to say i want the ballard slats to burn people, i want the spikes to impale them, is he going to go with a kushner plan or steven miller plan, at the end of the day that's where his gut and heart is. if he has to make a choice, it's going to be that tough, hard-line choice. >> he wants to burn and impale people. >> look, he is cruel, but he's
also completely incompetent. if you really want to control immigration to our country, then pass comprehensive immigration reform, work on the economic issues in central and south america. spending time playing exterior decorator for a vanity wall that's not going to make are bo safer is not going to solve the problem. he ought to be calling and asking why children are in cages and why children aren't reunited with their families and not debating which shade of black he's going to paint his fantasy wall. >> i think it's exactly right. first of all, it's about immigration. this is his number one principle, but it's also the attention for detail to things he cares about, whether it's the carpet in trump tower, or the fourth of july celebration this summer in washington. >> but he's an optics man. he wants to send the hard messages, not just enough that
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my thanks to ron, jonathan, the rev, ashley and nick and to all of you for watching. see you back here monday for "deadline: white house" at 4:00 p.m. ♪ hello, i'm chris matthews. first big event of the 2020 campaign is a month away. nbc news, msnbc, and telemundo presidential debate down in miami. i headed to northeastern pennsylvania to talk to voters in lieu experience county about issues that are important to them because it's one of the u.s. counties that switched from democrat obama